Abuja, Nigeria’s erstwhile bustling federal capital is now facing intense pressures from growing insecurity occasioned by uncontrolled influx of displaced persons fleeing from the insurgents’ attacks in the far north.
The situation is further compounded by overstretched infrastructure, lack of database of the “invaders”, poor monitoring mechanisms and lack of capacity to effectively police the city with an Area of 2,824 square miles or 7,315 square km.
Ravaging insurgency in the northeast, communal clashes in Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Kaduna and attacks on communities in Niger, Zamfara and Katsina states have made Abuja a “safe haven” for displaced persons from those states.
The FCT is bordered by Niger to the west and northwest and Kaduna State to the northeast, with Nasarawa to the east and south, and Kogi to the southwest.
Abuja was designed to be federal capital and the first modern city to be planned in Nigeria, but the latest developments have made the dream, a mirage.
Infrastructure is low due to poor budgetary allocations. For example, the FCT capital budget of about N160.1billion, approved under the 2020 appropriation year, is said to be weak when juxtaposed against needs assessments, even as N37billion out of this is set aside for the controversial renovation of the National Assembly complex, alone.
The budget was designed to address critical areas of need for development, ensure improved living standards of inhabitants of FCT, cater for critical needs such as security, roads, water, health education and development of its satellite towns.
However, influx of these persons has contributed in pilling more pressures on the city’s infrastructure and also created strong security challenges
The absence of infrastructure resulted in open defecation, amongst the several challenges, which 50percent of the residents engage in, according to a recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in collaboration with UNICEF.
Aside being the poverty capital of the world, Nigeria is said to be second in the world highest ranking of the number of people practising open defecation, behind India and fear is that while India is already addressing the issue, Nigeria is still in a deep slumber and may overtake India sooner than later.
Without any means of economic survival, many resort to self help, hawking anything from toothpicks to children toys, books, handkerchiefs, key holders, amongst others, during the day, while posing security threats at nights.
Some “lucky” ones become emergency motorcycle operators, in the suburbs of the city.
Among them, elderly men, women, children and the weak, resort to begging for alms, while some go into prostitution.
With the recent ban on Keke and motorcycle operations within the city centre, many have relocated to the fringes, suburbs and Area Councils where they sleep in makeshift camps, open places, like Mosques and market places.
Fears are that with the militants having a stronghold on Kaduna, a state that borders the FCT, it is only a matter of time before the entire FCT is overtaken by criminals.
Already, out of the six Area Councils including Abaji, Kwali, Gwagwalada, Abuja Municipal, Kuje and Bwari, there has been increasing wave of kidnapping for ransom in Kuje, Abaji Bwari and Gwagwalada.
The Minister of State for FCT, Ramatu Aliyu, while speaking on efforts to deal with the challenges, said the Ministry is embarking on programme to make FCT safe.
“The FCT Police Command is working on security, but we are also working on plans for at least 5000 affordable housing units.
“We have secured land across the FCT, 30 hectares of land in each of the six Area Councils. 60 hectares are currently being developed and are at lintel levels at Karshi 1, with another 30 hectares at Karshi 11, where engineering infrastructure has been done.
“We have taken cognisance of the need to provide basic infrastructural facilities for the growing population, giving priority to the issues of security, neighborhood centres, schools and primary healthcare delivery facilities.
Aliyu revealed that FCTA has presidential mandate to ensure development of standard infrastructures comparable to what is obtainable globally in the Federal Capital Territory,” Aliyu said.
She further said: “We also have comprehensive plans to complete works on the construction of 900 houses for Utako, Mabushi, Jabi, Jabi Akubo and Jabi Sabo-Maji; the infrastructure provisions are in progress for these areas.
“In Wasa, construction of 700 houses will soon commence, Kuchingworo, Juqwai, Karamajiji, Tunga- Maje, lukogoma, Dutse, Galadinmawa, will be done in phases.
“There are plans that by 2021, about 462 hectares of land will be developed for the relocation of the original inhabitants of the Kabusa community.”
In the areas of education, the minister disclosed that plans are on to renovate primary schools, embarked on community sensitisation and advocacy to take away children from the streets.
Aliyu said: “We have commenced the school feeding programme in the FCT as part of efforts to make education more attractive to both parents and pupils.
“We have set up an enforcement team for the mandatory Universal Basic Education enrollment programme that will go a long way to taking these children away from our streets. Job creation for the teeming citizens coming to Abuja daily is also top on our priority agenda.”
According to her, “We are working at promoting tourism and the Jabi Lake is our first place to begin from. We will float restaurants; swimming pools around Jabi, boats clubs and ancillary services that will create jobs, for teeming youths in the area.”
She further disclosed that the FCT has engaged consultants to work out comprehensive “waste to wealth” policy, massive environmental sanitation workforce to engage the youth.
The minister said that the FCTA is at the verge of concluding plans for the construction of public toilets.
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim (Rafsanjani), expressed fears about the security situation in Abuja, describing it as “alarming.”
According to him, “corruption in the sector has made insecurity lucrative.”
Ibrahim, who reiterated calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to restructure the nation’s security architecture, said: “No responsible Nigerians want to serve in the current security set up. With official endorsement of extortion, we really need to do a drastic reforms in the sector.
“They lack personnel and are overwhelmed, they lack appropriate gadgets to screen vehicles, detect arms, yet they are compromised.
“The recruitment process has been commercialised. You pay to get enlisted, you pay to get juicy posting, yet you must make returns to your bosses. Within the FCT, the police are aware of drug centres, but they turn away from arresting the drug peddlers,” he said.
He also attributed the crave for self-protection, community policing, as the direct result of the rots in the nation’s security system, but warned that state governments must not be allowed to abuse the policy.
“State police, or community police are desirable, but they must be regulated to avoid turning them into militias the governors can turn into thugs for prosecuting elections because they will be grooming a new set of criminals at the grassroots,” he said.
Tony Ailemen, Abuja